House panel advances portion of relief package that includes $1,400 checks
The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday advanced a key portion of Democrats’ coronavirus relief package that includes stimulus payments of up to $1,400 per person and an expansion of the child tax credit.
The committee approved the tax-related portion of the relief package by a party-line vote of 24-18.
It now heads to the House Budget Committee, which will combine the portions of the relief package that are approved by a wide array of House panels.
House Democrats started unveiling their relief package on Monday and have been spending the week moving the measure through relevant committees. The relief package is based on a $1.9 trillion proposal that President Biden floated last month.
The tax-focused portion of the bill that the Ways and Means Committee advanced Thursday contains some of the provisions in the bill that have received the most attention from lawmakers and members of the public.
The measure proposes direct payments of up to $1,400 per person, including adult dependents such as college students and elderly parents who were not eligible for the first two rounds of payments.
Ahead of the bill’s release, lawmakers had debated what the eligibility requirements should be for the $1,400 payments. The bill includes the same income limits for receiving full payment amounts as the first two rounds of payments, but changes how the payment amounts would phase out above those thresholds in an effort to prevent high-income households from getting the payments.
Individuals with income of up to $75,000 and married couples with income of up to $150,000 would be eligible for the full payment amounts. The amounts would then be reduced above those thresholds, and individuals with income above $100,000 and couples with income above $200,000 would not be eligible for payments.
Another provision in the measure would expand the child tax credit for 2021. It would increase the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for older children. The credit would also become fully refundable, allowing the lowest-income households to receive the full payment amounts. And it would direct the Treasury Department to issue advance payments of the credit, ideally on a monthly basis.
The tax section of the coronavirus relief package also includes temporary expansions of the earned income tax credit and the child and dependent care tax credit, extensions of tax credits for paid sick leave and paid family leave, and an increase of ObamaCare’s premium tax credits for 2021 and 2022.
Democrats said the bill would provide needed assistance to families that have been struggling during the pandemic.
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) said the measure would “dramatically reduce child poverty and improve the livelihoods of millions of low-income families.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) criticized the bill for not rolling back tax breaks related to business losses. But he nonetheless voted for the measure, speaking positively about the provisions on direct payments and tax-credit expansions.
“What the bill does contain offers significant benefits to many Americans who face day-to-day struggle to provide for their families,” he said.
Republicans said they support some items in the measure, including extending the paid leave credit, but took issue with other aspects.
Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) said that the $1,400 payments are “expensive and not at all targeted.”
He also said that much of the legislation “seems to use COVID-19 as an excuse to enact the wish list of Democratic priorities which pre-date the pandemic entirely.” He named the child tax credit expansion as an example of one such Democratic priority.
The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over much of House Democrats’ coronavirus relief package. The committee has also advanced several other sections of the legislation, including one that would expand federal unemployment benefits.